I DON’T: SINGLES
Signs, Part 1
September 15, 2002
I want to ask you a question. What if the Grapevine Police Department told me that half of the people that travel through the intersection of 121 and Bass Pro Drive crashed? How would you feel about that? What would you think about that statement? Again, what if I said that most of the people who cruised through that intersection got into a wreck?
Some of you would say, “Ed, I don’t believe that. There’s no way. That’s ridiculous!”
You’re right. That is ridiculous. There’s no way that happens. The Grapevine Police Department didn’t tell me anything like that. But, I do want to share a statistic that will sound pretty sobering. This is the real deal — one half of all marriages end in divorce. About 50 percent of all people who walk the wedding runner, who say, “I do,” end up bolting. They end up on the side of the road in relational wreckage. When you think about it, it’s amazing. Think about this worship center and all these people in here. If half of the worship center stood up, that would be the stats on those who bail out of the whole marriage game.
Before I go on with this first installment of this series, “I Don’t,” I have got to get something off my chest. To be frank with you, I did not want to do this series. This series has been on the docket for a long time, but I was not fired up to do it. I have talked about marriage and spouse selection so many times that I thought to myself, “What a whip! I’ve got to do this again?”
It’s kind of frustrating, because I’ve seen a lot of you take notes and nod your head. Maybe some singles here will say, “Yes, I should do those things that the Bible says about spouse selection. That’s right, Ed. Thank you.” I’ve watched you.
Then, even though it may be completely wrong, you turn and follow the first person with a heartbeat that crosses your path. You throw everything that we’ve talked about out the door and say, “Forget the Bible!”
I’ve seen others of you, who are married, taking notes, buying videos, reading books and listening to tapes. Then you say, “This applies to everybody else – my neighbor, my husband – but not me.” I have to tell you – it’s frustrating.
But, I’ve got to do this series because, first of all, God has led me to do it. He wants me to do it. Secondly, I’ve got to do it because one of the main values of Fellowship Church is building biblically functioning marriages. There is no way, though, that you can build Biblically functioning marriages without making strategic decisions. In other words, we have got to pick the right person. It is all about the choice. So, as we think about choosing the right spouse, we have got to start this series. Once you make the choice, then you say, “I do.” Then, you have to develop the implications of this important decision.
So, now that I have that off my chest, I can begin the first installment.
Picture yourself cruising down the freeway in your dream car, blowing through intersection after intersection. Just picture that dream car, whatever it is for you. It could be a Corvette, a Ferrari, or one of those new Hummers. Have you seen one of those cars? Now, think about yourself riding on the relational freeway. You are just cruising down the relational freeway.
If you are a smart driver, then you have got your hands at ten and two while you are driving. You are going to pay attention to the signs. The first sign you had better watch for is a sign that we see all the time. It’s the “merge” sign. [Ed reveals the “Merge” sign—looks like the traffic sign.]
Guess what? We have the urge to merge. It’s a God thing. We are attracted to the opposite sex. The merge part of the sign is marriage. We are going to talk about marriage in the ensuing weeks, but right now I want to talk to you about this little gap before we merge — when we are thinking about it and when we are going through the process of selecting our spouse.
When we date, no matter how flippantly, no matter how casually, and no matter how carelessly, in the back of our minds we are thinking, “Could this person be my marital mate?” The person we are dating is thinking that, too.
When you date, you are thinking about marriage, and you are thinking about this person being your mate. It’s the urge to merge. Have you ever just stopped and shown your appreciation to God for the fact that he made the opposite sex, that he has given us these desires for the opposite sex? It’s a great thing, a wonderful thing. We have the urge to merge.
So, we are cruising down the freeway, and we see this merge thing going on, and realize we have it. But, there is another sign out there. This sign is put up right in the middle of the freeway. This one is pretty bold. It’s one thing to see the merge sign and have the urge to merge. But, God is very upfront, very much in our face, with this next sign. It’s the “wrong way” sign. [Ed reveals the “wrong way” sign on stage] God tells us that we can go the wrong way. We can make the wrong choice. We can choose the wrong lane. We can merge with the wrong person. That is not popular or easy to think about it, but God can say, “Wrong way, wrong way, wrong way!” You can go the wrong way.
Second Corinthians 6:14 explains the sign. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.”
You may be asking, “Ed, what in the world is a yoke?”
I’ll tell you in a second. The verse continues, “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
Now, a yoke is a wooden contraption that farmers would use as they plowed the fields. The yoke would fit around the farm animals’ necks and attach to a plow. A smart farmer would yoke together two animals of equal strength. If he had two animals of equal strength, he would plow in a straight line. If he yoked animals of unequal strength, for example a bull on one side and a donkey on the other, then he would have problems. He would plow in circles. It’s a wheels-off deal.
God says unequivocally, irrevocably, that we are to hook up, yoke ourselves together with believers. He says if we don’t, if we compromise on this, then we are going the wrong way. That sign hurts a lot of people who are not married. You would think that single Christians, those that a personal relationship with Christ, would see that they are going the wrong way and would thank God. You would think that they would say, “Thank you, God, for being so concerned about spouse selection. God you are so strategic. I will worship you, because you have put a wrong way sign in the middle of the relational freeway.”
You would think that singles would say that. But, most Christian singles don’t really say that. Instead, they say something like, “How unfair! God, you have eliminated most of the potential candidates. What is this, God? Are you being discriminatory? Is this spiritual apartheid? I might show the ACLU this verse. Maybe they will sue you, God. I just can’t believe it!”
However, God has our best interest in mind. He wants us to hook up with believers. He wants us to be yoked together with people who can share, at the deepest level.
Some Christian singles, who are sly, see this wrong way sign, they read 2 Corinthians 6:14, and they say to themselves, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll just become an evangelist dater. I’ll see someone, and I don’t care who they are, Christian or non-Christian. Maybe I can lead the non-Christian to the Lord during a dating relationship.”
So they say, “Wow, look at her. She’s beautiful. She has an incredible figure. She needs the Lord. I think I will lead her to Christ. I have this need to lead her to the Lord.”
Or maybe a woman says, “I like him. He makes a million dollars a year. I could drive a Ferrari and a Porsche if I marry him. I could lead him to Jesus.”
Well, no. Now and then, dating miracles can happen. I have spoken to a large mass of humanity during my 20 years of ministry. The church I used to belong to is about the size of Fellowship Church now, and I have spoken to a lot of young people. I can only think of about four couples that had the evangelist-dating thing down cold. I’ve seen four couples where the evangelist-dating thing worked. Other than that, it will not work. So, if you are willing to play those odds, go for it. But I am telling you, based on the authority of God’s word, you are going the wrong way if you think you can become an evangelist dater. It’s not going to happen.
What is going to happen is that you are going to hook up with this person, and, because dating is intimate, they will pull you away from where you should be instead of you pulling them up. How can you lead someone to Christ when you are compromising? Maybe you are going horizontal and having sex with them. But at the same time, you are trying to point them towards a vertical relationship with Christ. That dog will not hunt.
There’s another sign that we have got to pay attention to. We are still talking about 2 Corinthians 6:14. The next sign is the yield sign. 2 Corinthians 6:14 is all about yielding. God wants to hook us together with people who have yielded themselves to Christ. Believers have yielded themselves to Jesus and the people that believers date and marry, should also have yielded themselves to Christ.
Maybe you’re saying, “Well, Ed, that’s fine. That’s cute. You have your signs up here, but how in the world do you know if the person you are dating is a Christian? How do you know that?”
I’m glad you asked that question. Usually, if a person has yielded themselves to Christ, they will tell you during the first, second, or, at the latest, third date. If they haven’t, then you had better put a big old honking question mark over the yield sign. If someone knows Christ intimately, they are going to tell you, especially in a connection like dating.
How do you know if they are a Christian? They will have a before Christ and after Christ story. “Here is how my life was before I met Jesus. Here is how I met Jesus and here is what he has done in my life.”
I have performed many weddings, during which a lot of funny things have happened. I have had the turtledoves cooing. I have even had the bride’s hair catch on fire — all this wild and funny stuff has happened. One day, I might write a book about wacky stuff that has happened during the weddings that I have performed. I could go on and on. But, every time I perform a wedding, I meet with the couple in my office. They sit down and we will talk about some casual stuff like what they do for a living or where they met. Then, I always get down to the main question.
I say, “Let me ask you this question. Tell me about your story. Tell me about when you met Jesus Christ. Just tell me about that.”
I have listed for you the responses that I have received over the years — common responses in this scenario.
Here’s the first one. “Well, Ed, I have always been a Christian.” That’s impossible. That would be like me saying I have always been married. “I’m 41 years of age and I have been married my whole life. It’s amazing,” I would say. “See, there’s a wedding ring. I’m married and I always have been.”
No. I got married on June 26, 1982 at 7:00 pm, in Columbia, SC, at the First Baptist Church. That’s when I said, “I do,” to Lisa. From that point on, the establishment of that relationship, I’ve realized the implications of it. So, you can’t always be a Christian. You’ve got to have a point in time where you met Christ.
Here’s another one. They say, “Well, I believe in God.”
That’s great. You believe in God. I do, too. The Bible says that even Satan and the demonic forces believe in God so much that they actually tremble.
Here’s another one. “When I was twelve, I was confirmed at the (whatever) church.” I am all for confirmation. That’s great. You took those classes and that’s cool. But, once again, just because you were confirmed doesn’t mean a thing as far as your personal relationship with Christ.
Here’s another one. “My parents, Ed, took me to church on Christmas and Easter.” I won’t even elaborate on that.
How about this one? “I don’t know about Jesus, Ed, but I am a very spiritual person.”
If the person you are dating gives you answers to the big question like that, then you better place a big old honking question mark on the yield sign, because, probably, they have not yielded themselves to Christ.
The right answer is, “You know what? Here is how I accepted Christ. I realized that I was a sinner. I understood that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins and rise again. I received him into my life. I established a personal relationship on that day or during that time in my life. I know I don’t deserve it, but Jesus has infiltrated my life and, because he is in my life, here is what has taken place, here is what is happening. I have this relationship with him. I said, ’I do’ to him.” We have got to have a point in our lives when we established that relationship.
Maybe you’re saying, “Well, Ed, this person says that they are a Christian. They say they have a before and after Christ story. I have heard it so it must mean that they are a Christian.”
What if I said this? What if I said, “I am an elephant?” Does anybody here believe that I am an elephant? No. But, I said that I am an elephant. I can do a pretty good imitation of one. [Ed imitates the sound an elephant makes] What do you think? Maybe I am an elephant. [Ed laughs to show his sarcastic tone] No, I am not an elephant.
People can say, “I’m a Christian. I have a before and after Christ story. I’m a Christian.” But, they could be having sex outside of marriage, smoking the weed, or chasing this and that. They could be materialistic or mean-spirited.
But still they might say, “Oh, I have a before and after Christ story. I’m a believer.” Oh, really? That’s very interesting.
Talk is cheap. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith. But here is what Jesus said in John 15:8, “This is my father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
That is the “show me the money” verse. Christ is saying, “Hey, it is great that you are talking smack, but you have got to produce fruit.” The Bible says that, once we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives from the inside out.
So, yes, you have got to have a story. That’s crucial. But also, look for the fruit. A true believer is going to have fruit in his or her life. Let’s talk about the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians, Chapter 5. This is a great test. If you are dating someone and you are wondering if they are a Christian or not, just listen to my words as I elaborate on the characteristics of the fruit of the spirit. Let’s go.
Love — That is one of the fruits of the spirit. Is he or she a loving person? Does he or she sacrificially love me? Do they love others?
Joy — Does this person have that exuberant spirit that lives in the life of a man or a woman of God?
Peace — Does this person have peace with God through Christ? Is this person anxious or worried all the time? Does he or she have a calming nature? Those are good questions to ask yourself.
Patience — Is this person able to delay gratification? Does this person have discipline with his or her wallet? How about with his or her time? Is this person patient with you or demanding with you?
Kindness — Is this person truly kind? Whatever you do, listen to me now. Pick someone who is kind.
Goodness — Is this person basically good? Does he or she have biblically-based morals to stand for what is right?
Faithfulness — This is the mark of a true believer – someone who is always there, consistent and honest. Is the one that you are with faithful or flaky? Is this person sensitive to your feelings and needs or ice cold and macho?”
Self-control — That’s a good one. Does this person control his or her speech? Does this person control the sex drive or is this person always testing your boundaries?
Are they yielded to Christ? Do they have a story? Do they have fruit in their lives?
There is something else that this person must have in order to show you that they have yielded themselves to Christ. Let me explain it this way. What if I said this: “I love ping pong, but I hate ping pong tournaments. I hate ping pong tables. I don’t like ping pong balls or paddles, but I love ping pong.”
Or what if I said this: “I really enjoy hunting, but I don’t like bows, guns, leases, or the outdoors. But I love hunting.”
That doesn’t make sense. If you love something, then you are going to be around that something. You will want and desire that something. If someone says that they are a believer, they have a story, and they have fruit, but that someone is not actively involved in a church, then, “Warning! Alien approaching!” [Ed imitates the robot from the show “Lost in Space”]
If you are a Christ-follower, then you are going to be into that entity which is the most near and dear to the heart of Jesus — the local church. The Bible calls the local church the bride of Christ. So, if you are dating someone and they are church hopping and shopping, they are not involved in a church, not serving in a church, and don’t have a passion for a church, then you might want to put a big honking question mark over the yield sign.
Let me chase a quick rabbit. What if you have been dating this person for a while, and this person is Baptist and you are Lutheran? Or, this person is Catholic and you are a member of a Bible church? So, you say to yourself, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. When we get married, he can go to his church and I will go to mine. We’ll kind of share.”
I’m telling you, “Don’t go there.”
“It’s not that big of an issue, Ed,” you might say.
It might not be now. But, once you get married, you can 5X that one. That’s a huge thing. You better decide on a church now. One where you can both get involved and both serve and say, “This is it.” If you don’t, then you are signing up for some serious turmoil. Life is too short.
That’s why I am so thrilled about Fellowship Church. We are a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church. This is our only authority. [Ed holds up the Bible] No denomination is our authority. The Bible is. Isn’t that great? That’s why we have so many people from so many different walks of life.
I met someone the other day. He came up to me and said, “Yes, I have heard about Fellowship Church, but I’m Catholic.”
I told him, “Do you know what? We probably have more people from Catholic backgrounds than any other background at Fellowship.”
My wife grew up Lutheran. Many people here grew up Baptist or Bible Church. Some people grew up nothing and that’s a cool thing. It’s thrilling to see people who are dating say, “God has led us to Fellowship Church. This is our church home. This is a great bridge church and this is our place.”
So, settle on a place before you walk down the wedding runner. I’ll stop now and change to something else. That was very important.
Maybe you are a “why” person. I am a big “why” person.
“Why? Why would God insist on all this stuff? Why would God give us the urge to merge, put the wrong way sign there and then say you have got to have yielded like the other person should have yielded – to Christ? Why?”
I’m glad you ask, because I asked that question a long time ago. And the answer is, “Because God wants our marriages to go to the next level. He wants our marriages to always be on the up tick. He wants us to hit higher ground, and he knows we can only hit higher ground if we are yielded to Christ.” If we are both yielded to Christ, then we can share that which is the most near and dear to our spirits with each other.
If you are a Christian and your mate is a non-Christian, that non-Christian can never really know the essence of who you are. God wants us to know each other in a deep way. He wants our relationship to go to a higher ground. If you are hooked up with someone who is not a believer, then you are going to spend most of your marriage four-wheeling through a valley. You’ll run into problems and all you’ll be able to say is, “Nice scorpion. Nice rattlesnake. I’m sunburned.”
Life is too short to sign up for that kind of turmoil. Don’t you want the best? God wants it. Don’t you want the best? Make that choice. Do you see the genius of God?
As I look back on the 20 years of my marriage with Lisa, basically, our marriage has been on an up take the whole way. I would be lying to you if I said there weren’t some potholes along the way, some gaps along the way. That’s part of it.
It’s like my friend said, “Ed, marriage is not the best thing.”
If you think marriage is the best thing, then you are out to lunch. All the line is not on your fly-reel. (Fishermen got that.)
“Marriage is not the best thing,” he said. “Marriage is the hardest thing. But, it should be a lab where we work out the grace of God.”
In a couple of sessions, as we talk about relationships, we are going to interview my friend, who is an outstanding Christian psychologist. One of the reasons God says we are to be yoked to a believer is because he wants our earthly relationship with our spouse to go to higher ground.
There’s another sign that we need to look for. There’s another reason that God wants us to be hooked up with believers. He wants us to do a lot of U-turning in our marriages. [Ed reveals the “U-turn” sign}
You’re probably asking, “Ed, what’s up with U-turning? What do you mean by U-turn? That sounds weird.”
It shouldn’t sound weird, especially after I share with you 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (You could say, “…and gave us the ministry of doing supernatural U-turns.) that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting man’s sins against him. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
This is so huge, so towering. This sign should be a billboard. This sign is what it is all about.
If Lisa and I did not have the ministry of reconciliation in our marriage, we would not be married today. Why?
She’d probably say, “Ed, you messed me around. See ya! Wouldn’t want to be ya.”
However, Lisa and I have an awesome marriage. We have both yielded ourselves to Christ. We, by the grace of God, are going to a higher ground and we have the ministry of making U-turns, the ministry of reconciliation. So, when we have an argument (and we do argue), when we have a disagreement (we do have disagreements — I know that might be hard for you to believe, but we do), when I am being selfish or mean-spirited, or when I want to go down my own relational freeway, the Holy Spirit steps in.
He says, “Ed, Senior Pastor Ed Young, you have been reconciled to God through Christ. You didn’t deserve that. You are a sinner. You have been given the ministry of reconciliation, so make the U-turn. Reconcile the relationship.”
The Holy Spirit says, “Hey, Lisa. You have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Stop doing the cold shoulder thing. Stop doing your own thing and make the U-turn.”
Then, when we reconcile, here is what happens. Because we do it Biblically, the reconciliation is like a rung on a ladder that takes us higher and higher in our marriage.
Conflict will happen. When it’s handled the right way, you will not believe where your marriage can go. It’s all about making those U-turns and the Holy Spirit gives us that desire. He gives us the octane, the RPM’s and the horsepower to make those turns. That’s why Christian marriages are on a higher level than those that are not Christian marriages.
Here is another reason that God insists on us being yoked to believers. [Ed reveals a “School Crossing” sign] This is a school crossing sign. These are a bunch of kids right here. [Ed points to the picture on the sign] There are only two kids on the sign, but they represent many kids.
I met a couple awhile back who said, “Ed, we are having some marital problems. We are going to have a kid, because that will bring us closer together.”
I just asked, “Hello? Is anybody home? Is anybody in the car driving down this relational freeway?”
Kids complicate the deal. Children are a gift from God. They are wonderful and they are beautiful. I love children. Child rearing is challenging. It’s tough, but it’s worth it. Can you imagine, parents, trying to rear children where the father is following one set of signs and the mother is following another set of signs? Talk about confused kids!
They’d be asking, “Which way do I go? When I’m with Dad and he’s dropping the F-bomb, taking God’s name in vain and he’s doing this. When I’m with Mom, she’s telling me to go to church and wanting me to get involved. I’m not sure which way to go. I’m a little bit confused here.”
Again, the genius of God can be seen. Even if God had not said, “Don’t hook up with non-believers,” we could have figured it out. But, I’m glad he said it.
Think of trying to rear children that way. Children know at a very young age, they realize and discern how to play one parent against the other. Have you ever been involved in that? I have.
My kids will come to me and say, “Dad, Mom said so and so, but what do you think about it?”
Here’s what I have learned. Parents should always present a unified front. If I disagree with what Lisa said, I don’t say, “Well, kids, let’s do what Daddy says.” That’s wrong. That’s bad. I would be messing her around. Here’s what I will do.
I’ll say, “Hey, Lisa, I want to talk to you in private.”
Then, after we talk together in private, we’ll say, “Okay, kids, here’s where we are.”
We’ve got to present a unified front. When we present a unified front, we have unified kids and we will be able to shoot our kids into this life with great trajectory, because they are watching us drive. They are watching us in our dream cars. Our kids are watching us 24/7 drive down the relational freeway. They know us better than we realize it, and they are seeing if we will obey the signs. They want us to obey the signs. They are looking for parameters, guardrails and guidelines. When we do it God’s way, it’s going to be incredible.
What am I saying today? In one sentence, I’m simply saying, “Don’t ignore the signs.”
We have thirty seconds left, so let me tell you where I’m going next week.
You might say, “Okay, Ed, I’ve got it. Now I’ve got everything I need to know about finding the spouse.”
No, you don’t. This message is just a prerequisite for next week. This is just a baby pool. We are going deeper next weekend.
You can’t leave these out. Here we go. [Ed begins to turn sign around that will be discussed in the next message] Recognize this sign? It’s the “Hazardous Cargo” sign. It means, “No hazardous cargo allowed.” You better check out how much hazardous cargo this person you are dating has in his or her life. If you don’t, then you are not being discerning.
What did Jesus say? He said that we need to be wise as serpents, as harmless as doves. Don’t check your intellect at the door when you start dating someone. We all have hazardous cargo. I have it. So do you. Let’s just be honest here. But, some of us have too much. If we are dating someone with too much, then we better put that big honking question mark over that sign.
We are also next week going to talk about this sign, “Signal Ahead.” What happens when you ignore this sign and just blow through a signal? You’re talking about a horrible crash, tires and glass and metal being bent.
We are also going to look at the rough road of relationships and marriage. It’s like my friend said, “Marriage is not the best thing; it’s the hardest thing. ” But, it’s an awesome thing, if we use it as a laboratory to work out the grace of God.
I’ll say it one more time. “Don’t ignore the signs.”
Let’s bow for prayer.
God, you are so awesome. Thank you for giving us these signs. Thank you for the relational freeway. Thank you for the desire that we have for the opposite sex. I pray, God, that not only will we hear your words, but that we will do them. I pray that we will put tire rubber beneath them as we live them out. In Jesus’ name, amen.